The phrase “I feel weird touching this” bounced around the room a lot last night at the Whitney’s opening reception for “Possessed,” an exhibit with the fashion label Eckhaus Latta. Designers Zoe Latta and Mike Eckhaus, who are known for their forward-thinking, inclusive approach to style, set up the show to mimic the retail experience, allowing museum-goers to try on and buy clothing from their exclusive collection. The crowd initially seemed perplexed by the commingling of art and commerce as they eyed racks of clothing emblazoned with postmodern phrases like “I Was On the American Flag’s Website.” But by the end of the night, they flooded the retail counter, nearly buying out the entire shop.
As the reception began, influencers trickled into the museum lobby and the adjacent exhibit, mingling among people in potato-sack dresses, backwards hats, and Adidas soccer jerseys. The cast of characters, dawdling in the Whitney lobby while a bartender drew them blood-red punch through a turkey baster, included an assortment of fashion insiders — including Camilla Deterre, Hunter Schafer, and Paloma Elsesser — along with the designers’ friends and family.
“The exhibit really explores the ideas behind being a fashion label and a consumer of fashion, and being a consumer of anything in this day and age,” said Lauri Freedman, the Whitney’s Head of Product Development and a co-curator of “Possessed.” “This peels the curtain back a little bit on the unwitting part of the retail experience.”
Along with displays of clothing made from up-cycled bath towels and transparent polyester, the exhibition features a “security room” where visitors can watch live footage of the main room, along with video surveillance of Eckhaus Latta’s Los Angeles store. The darkened space, where you can also see others taking selfies in a two-sided mirror, encourages viewers to (literally) take a critical look at the act of shopping.
“We didn’t have any expectation in terms of how the clothes would actually sell; we were more interested in how people would experience it,” Zoe said, before telling her art director — who was passing by — that she had his shirt on hold. “It’s a little overwhelming. We might have to make more stuff.”